JAPAN TRIP 2011 by Vicki Katte (Sandan)

Last May, Shihan, Suraj and I went to Tokyo to train with Tsubamoto Sensei. This is what happened……..

Our first day in Tokyo was a promise of things to come- a long and action packed day lasting well into the night. Arriving at 7.30 am, we caught the Skyliner fast train from the airport to Ueno where our hotel was. The muletrain reached the hotel after climbing many steps. Power restrictions were in place so many escalators were not working. We walked to the park, saw beautiful gardens and temples. Late afternoon we went to the Ueno zoo and saw the giant pandas. That night I was exhausted- is that a hospital across the road? Book me in!

Friday was another walking/sightseeing/shopping expedition. That night was the first training session. As we got closer to Tsubamoto Sensei’s Dojo I had a sinking feeling in the pit of my stomach-what was I doing here? We received a warm welcome and exchanged gifts so I relaxed. We started warm ups and it didn’t take long before my face was bright red. (it was a warm evening) After reassuring everyone that I was OK, training continued! Everyone was very helpful with corrections and explanations. Most of the Dojo went for a meal after training, which was to become the norm for our stay.

We quickly discovered the (free) massage chair in the hotel foyer which was put to good use (daily).

Shihan kept us on the move thanks to his prior experience with the Tokyo rail system. We explored the ‘Collins St’ of Tokyo -Omotosando Hills- and shopped at the Bazaar there.

Sunday was training from 9-12. Sensei had organised training at a school gymnasium. Plenty of room, and mirrors-but it was very hot. We each had help with our chosen Kata. The showers in the change room were an experience- water turns on using a foot pedal! I discovered that my gi doubles as a towel! We then went to one of Sensei’s favourite restaurants for lunch. Evening meal was at a Japanese BarBQ restaurant- I can say I tasted raw liver!

By Monday the rain was steady. Yuki Sensei took us to visit Ichikawa Sensei’s grave. We cleaned the headstone and placed flowers and incense on the memorial. Then it was off to Akihabara or Electric City. Evening was at another BBQ restaurant with Ono sensei and his friend ‘Ted’, who had lived and worked in Australia for a few years. We learnt some party tricks and chatted with some young people at the next table. Then it was on to a ‘Standing bar’ where there were some Europeans that Ono San had befriended for our benefit. We just managed to catch the last train back to the hotel. We exited the wrong gate, and due to language difficulties, paid again to get out!

Tuesday and Thursday were bus tours organised by Ono San. Peak hour train travel was an experience! It’s all about position, position, position, otherwise you are swept away in the wave of disembarking humanity! The first tour group was just the 4 of us. We saw many lovely ancient temples and beautiful gardens. The second bus tour included Aquacity which was amazing- the shopping spree continued. Lunch on the 51st floor of a hotel and views from Tokyo Tower - who’s afraid of heights?

We spent a day at the markets at Ueno then to Tokaido to pick up the gi’s we had ordered, and to order our new black belts. Suraj nearly bought the whole shop! Extra training for the Australians that night followed by dinner - it was another long day.

Friday was a free day. I shopped in Ueno and explored it’s huge railway station. More training that night followed by a late meal, last train to hotel. An early morning to follow.

Saturday morning training with Sensei and Ishii san –it was very hot. We freshened up at the hotel before catching the train to Yuki’s’ where we had lunch . Then it was off to the hall to help with English language students at Yuki’s “Happy School”. We practised Kata and Yuki San demonstrated for us. Yuki rode his bike to the station in the rain to come back with us and take us out for a meal. It was hi tech computer orders from the table all round! Smoking unfortunately is allowed in restaurants.

The last training session focussed on our selected Kata. After warm ups, we received individual coaching, then we each demonstrated what we had learnt. Other students also demonstrated Kata. After farewells, Ishii San took us home with him – 20 kms in 1 hour! After a home cooked lunch (way too much food!) Ishii san and his lovely wife took us shopping with a difference- they wanted to buy us presents! We were overwhelmed by their generosity. He then drove us all the way back to our hotel.

Another end to a long day, or so we thought.

Yuki rang at 10 pm to see if we wanted to go out- but we had an early flight the next morning.

We took a flatter route to the train station, as by now our bags were considerably heavier and we (I) couldn’t cope with all those steps. Last shopping at Narita airport.

Summing up-

The karate training was amazing

The sightseeing was amazing

The shopping was amazing

The people/hospitality were amazing

The trains were amazing

The steps were not amazing

Many thanks to Shihan for organising the trip. Words cannot describe the hospitality we were shown by our hosts.

The club can look forward to many exchange visits in the future.

Vicki Katte